Sittwe: Arakanese people who worked for the gemstone mining companies in Phakant in Kachin State are reportedly returning to their homeland in Arakan State after the companies recently shut down their business operations there.
“We are coming back from Phakant and will go to [Arakan State]. We move back to our homeland not because of the war, but because all the gemstone mining companies that we worked for have recently shut down, and without jobs we may face starvation there,” said a female Arakenese worker who is returning home along with others.
The woman is from Nyaungpunhla Village in Rathidaung in Arakan State, and there are over 20 people, including children, in the group she is returning home with.
She added that there are many Arakanese people who are stranded in trouble and unable to return home after their jobs were shut down in Kachin State.
“People who have money are able to return home, but there are so many, estimated three to four thousand people, who are still stranded in great trouble because they do not have enough money to go back home,” she said.
A male Arakanese worker also confirmed that many Arakanese migrant workers are stranded without food and shelter in Phakant after their companies abandoned them after stopping operations.
“No company here cares for their workers after closing their business. There are now many Arakanese who came to work here who are facing lack of food and shelter because the companies they worked for have abandoned them. No company helps them in their plight and now the people who have money are returning home while the people who do not have money are continuing their strayed lives here,” he said.
According to the sources, an estimated 100,000 Arakanese have migrated to Kachin State for job opportunities. Most of them have been working as day laborers in the gemstone mining industries while very few of them have been running small businesses like tea and grocery shops, restaurants, and electronic repair services in the mining areas in the region, including Phakant.
The workers also said the companies had to stop their operations because oil carriers are unable to access the mining sites in the region, and a regional armed group has forced them to shut down.
An Arakanese youth from Zaykonetan in Rathidaung Township said he feels bored at home after coming back from Phakant.
“I am not happy to live here in [Arakan], and I feel bored here because I have not found a job here yet since I came back from Phakant. Now I am thinking to go to Thailand or Malaysia before the money I made in Phakant runs out,” said the youth.
According to workers returning from Phakant, most of them are worried for their future after returning home because there are no job opportunities for them in their homeland of Arakan.